"Theatres, with their notoriously liberal atmosphere, are vital to us,
because they meet the needs of a specific audience segment
and ensure that such people remain under our firm control.”
Rainer Schlösser, director of theaters in the Third Reich
The actor of the Russian Drama Theater in Ulan-Ude, Artur Shuvalov (pictured above), who opened his veins with a clerical knife right on the stage, says in an interview: “They are trying to turn the theater into a propaganda tool, into a function that supports state policy, and actors are used as dummies . But the theater should not be aimed at propaganda. Theater is a mirror that should show the problems of society.” A year after the start of the war, these words may seem naive. What other "problems of society" if the country is led by a war criminal, and the country is waging an aggressive war unprecedented in cruelty and cynicism?
However, by his very act, the actor blew up the atmosphere both in his theater and in the city, showing that society is not a crowd of silent anonymous people rolled into asphalt. Shuvalov was supported by his colleagues - a few days later, three of them with the police were kicked out of the theater building when they wanted to watch the premiere of their own theater with Moscow artists. The story of the confrontation between the actors and the current Z-artistic director lasts a year, after the real artistic director, Sergei Levitsky, was expelled from the theater for an openly anti-war position. The actors did not keep silent even then, demanding to explain the professional reasons for the dismissal of the director, in which the theater for the first time in many years got into the long list of the Golden Mask and was invited to several theater festivals. And on the eve of May 9, Shuvalov removed the banners with the letters V and Z installed in front of the theater with his own hands (moreover, the immediate reason is interesting - a Moscow theater critic, an expert from the Golden Mask, said that he would not come to watch the premiere if he saw militaristic symbols at the theater).
The actor who opened his veins blew up the atmosphere both in his theater and in the city
We must pay tribute to the Moscow critic, who, for obvious reasons, it is better not to name. But otherwise, it is clear that Moscow’s influence on regional theaters is completely different: not only circulars on the specific design of theaters come from the Ministry of Culture, but also censorship lists, personnel decisions and instructions to send actors to propaganda teams glorifying the “special operation” in the occupied territories (Shuvalov from this directly refused, despite the fact that his salary, as he himself said, at best does not exceed 26 thousand rubles a month, but many, tormented by poverty and unemployment, agree).
The defeat of the Russian theater on the anniversary of the start of the war was summed up in its chronicle by the magazine "Teatr" (officially closed in Russia). Dozens of artistic directors of key theaters left their positions, leading actors either left themselves or were expelled from theaters, many went abroad, the productions of several playwrights and directors are banned, and even if not banned, their names are crossed out from posters and programs, some are recognized " foreign agents”, administrative and criminal cases are brought against them. These are dozens of names and titles.
What is offered instead of all that is banished and forbidden?
Basically - the aforementioned business trips of propaganda teams and individual theatrical figures to Donetsk, Luhansk and Mariupol, Z-design of facades. Among the “creative achievements” are the huge Russian tours of the Donetsk Music and Drama Theater with the play “I Know the Truth”, the conclusion by the theaters of agreements on cooperation with the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Defense. The frontmen of the theatrical Z-movement are actors Yevgeny Mironov, Polina Agureeva, Vladimir Mashkov (who seems to have completely lost his mind), Sergey Bezrukov, Irina Apeksimova, Dmitry Pevtsov, as well as actor and director Sergey Puskepalis, who died in a car accident while sending “aid to Donbass”.
Although most of the “events” are of an anonymous bureaucratic nature (such as fundraising and “agitation team trips”), and the Donetsk performance was presented as a “creative achievement” for the year (we could not find independent reviews for which, as well as data on audience success), and as well as the television cries on Red Square of the former actor Okhlobystin “Goyda!”, It must be admitted that the mobilization of all-Russian recognized names in the theater seems to be more successful than in the rest of the “culture and art” industry.
The mobilization of recognized names in the theater is more successful than in other areas of art
Theaters are flooded with money , while the public is buying up tickets for any performance (unlike empty cinema halls), and the control of the Ministry of Culture over personnel and repertoire policy is extremely close.
It would seem that, purely arithmetically, the number of theater spectators in the country is not so large and is physically limited by the number of theater seats, but the political leadership feels with their spinal cord that the theater, where live action takes place here and now, is the traditional nerve of metropolitan and city life in general since the time of the opera "Life for the king!".
If for Lenin the most important arts were cinema and the circus, then Stalin never forgot about the theater, was engaged in micromanagement, went to performances, delved into the repertoire, took part in the fate of individual playwrights, theaters and the entire workshop (it seems that the management of the performing arts and literature occupied him more than a boring and ungrateful economy, which was not helped in any way by Marxist theories or repression).
If for Lenin the most important arts were cinema and the circus, then Stalin never forgot about the theater
Even the elderly and deeply ill Leonid Brezhnev in 1981 personally, together with members of the Politburo, attended the Moscow Art Theater premiere of the play “So we will win!” with Kalyagin in the title role (according to the memoirs, when Kalyagin entered the stage, Brezhnev asked Chernenko: “Is this Lenin?
And it's not just local history. In the recently translated into Russian book by Nicholas Stargardt “The Mobilized Nation. Germany 1939–1945 tells about the theater in the Third Reich:
Goebbels was always willing to donate huge amounts of money to maintain theaters. In 1942–1943 he invested 45 million marks in them - almost a hundred times more than in the past decade. Actually, the minister spent less on propaganda. The amount, supplemented, according to the plan, at the expense of regional and city revenues, amounted to a good quarter of the entire budget of the Goebbels department. Filmmakers did not get even half, because if the film industry brought in considerable income, theaters without subsidies were threatened with closure. Although the regime demanded mass audiences to the theatre, the Nazis had to put up with the demands of the middle class, the traditional consumers of annual subscriptions. The volume of resources allocated to the theaters shows the seriousness of the concept of "German culture" for the Nazi regime, with the awareness of the need to satisfy the educated public that personified it. Most of the three hundred theater companies in the Reich worked year-round, giving two or three performances a day.
Nothing saved Hitler and Goebbels either from the Allied bombs or from Stalin's tanks, what they did eventually led them to the ampoules of poison, and their faithful comrades to Nuremberg. To be honest, even now it is not clear to me how the expulsion of Levitsky from the theater in Ulan-Ude, Nazarov from the Moscow Art Theater, and Lia Akhedzhakova from Sovremennik will help the “second army of the world” to take Bakhmut or at least Tchaikovsky Street there.
Hitler and Goebbels did not save attention to theaters either from Allied bombs or from Stalin's tanks
Under Stalin, actors were thrown out of the window for fear of arrest, like Vladimir Yakhontov , and sent for long periods to imprisonment or exile in Siberia, like Georgy Zhzhenov . But as soon as Stalin himself died, as soon as the country thawed in the thaw, with the advent of Sovremennik and the Taganka Theater, theaters came to the fore in the search for meaning, creative (semi) freedom, and even the opposition.
Under Andropov, this will end with a new defeat and temporary emigration of Yuri Lyubimov, but already in perestroika, one of the main not only cultural, but also social phenomena was the movement of amateur studios and amateur theaters, from which many stars and even classics of the new generation came out.
Now the theater stars forced to go abroad are not crossed out, canceled or forgotten. Anatoly Bely performed 20 times in Israel with the solo performance "I'm Here" and now he is touring Europe . Alexander Filippenko took the stage in Riga with a full house in the reading of the play “How We Buried Joseph Vissarionovich”. Artur Smolyaninov is the new star of the Citizen Poet project and also performs in European capitals . These are only three examples and only actors (directors such as Krymov and Serebrennikov would require a separate column).
Forced to go abroad theater stars are not crossed out, not canceled and not forgotten
Critic Aleksey Kiselev tried to “count” the rapidly growing Russian theatrical diaspora in the world back in November: “Maxim Didenko in Berlin, Timofey Kulyabin in Sofia, Semyon Aleksandrovsky in Tel Aviv, Dmitry Krymov in the USA. Director Ilya Moshchitsky puts on performances in Yerevan, producer Yuri Shekhvatov consolidates Russian theatrical emigrants in Almaty, the author of cross-disciplinary projects Vika Privalova in Tbilisi, the best director of the theater for teenagers Polina Struzhkova in Tallinn.”
And so, Sergei Levitsky, expelled from Ulan-Ude, was accepted by Kazakhstan, and he works at the Theater of Young Spectators in Almaty.
Actor Artur Shuvalov, like hundreds and thousands of actors and directors, stays at home and continues his interview:
“I was amazed and pleased with the support of the public. People still call me and write to me in solidarity. It seems to me that these are not hundreds, but thousands of people. I don’t let go of my phone and, in order to sleep, I have to turn off the sound, because I constantly receive messages and calls. “We support you,” artists from other theaters and just strangers from all over the country write to me, not only from Buryatia, someone even from abroad.”
Neither geographic boundaries, nor sick fantasies of officials, nor censorship and propaganda, nor criminal cases can change the laws of thermodynamics either in art or in human life. All this history has passed many times, since the time of the ban on the mysteries in medieval Europe and the complete ban on the theater in the English Republic in the 17th century.
Even now, almost no one remembers and knows the author of the play “I Know the Truth”. Artur Shuvalov, at least in Buryatia, will be remembered for a long time.